Kafue National Park

The biggest game sanctuary in Zambia

The Kafue National Park encloses an area of 22,480 sq km. The British colonial rulers established part of what was to become the KNP as a protected area in 1924, which makes it the oldest of the Zambian national parks; but it was not until 1950 that it gained National Park status. Back in the 1920s the Nkoya peoples inhabited the central western area of Northern Rhodesia. The Nkoya are one of the oldest settled groups in the country (6th century). Unfortunately, their traditional hunting grounds were also an important watershed and catchment area that served two great rivers, the Zambezi to the west and the Kafue to the east.

In order to protect this crucial geological feature, the colonial government decided that the people had to go, and they were relocated eastwards, to the Mumbwa area, well away from their home area in the west, which was centred around a town called Mankoya.

The other reason the colonial government gave for protecting this crucial watershed was to relieve the pressure of hunting on its vast herds of wildlife. As to who was doing all the hunting is not so clear, as the colonial masters were pretty handy when it came to taking… But the Nkoya were relocated anyway. Delineating the area for protection was not very easy and it was only in the 1930s that the vast plains and swamps of Busanga in the north were secured, displacing another long-settled peoples, the Kaonde.

In the late 1940s, owing to the seeming success of protecting the important watershed and its wildlife, the colonial government went ahead with plans to expand the reserve southwards, thus completing what is now the entire Kafue National Park.

In 1956 the 300 kilometre Western boundary was established along the Zambezi/Kafue watershed that runs south from Kasempa to Kalomo. The eastern boundary is defined by the confluence of the Lunga and Kafue Rivers and then also heads southwards, for 150 kilometres, before hitting the Itezhi-Tezhi dam wall, which wasn’t there at the time. That’s where the Kafue River leaves the Park and the boundar carries on south with a rather conspicuous straight line until it hits Dundumwezi on the main Lusaka – Livingstone Road.

(from: The Kafue National Park by Nikki Ashley)